Jeff Bezos on the Difference Between Cleverness and Kindness at Princeton, 2010

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, stepped on the podium at Princeton in 2010, twenty-four years after his own graduation with a degree in computer science in 1986, to address the graduating class about —

The difference between cleverness and kindness:

What I want to talk to you about today is the difference between gifts and choices.

Cleverness is a gift; kindness is a choice. Gifts are easy — they’re given after all. Choices can be hard. You can seduce yourself with your gifts if you’re not careful, and if you do, it’ll probably be to the detriment of your choices.

Tomorrow, in a very real sense, your life — the life you author from scratch on your own — begins.

How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?

Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?

Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?

Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?

Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?

Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?

Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?

Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?

When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?

Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?

Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?

Jeff compels us to seriously reconsider carving out our own fate by re-writing a great story for ourselves:

I will hazard a prediction. When you are 80 years old and in a quiet moment, a reflection narrating for only yourself — the most personal version of your life story — the telling that will be the most compact and meaningful —will be the series of choices that you’ve made. In the end, we are our choices. Build yourself a great story.

https://youtu.be/vBmavNoChZc

A clip of Jeff Bezos delivering graduation speech at Princeton University in 2010.

Ray Bradbury’s Keynote Address from TELLING THE TRUTH, 2001 on ‘Enjoying Our Work’

A glimpse of “Do what you love, love what you do” mental construct.

In 2001, sci-fi author Ray Bradbury walks to the podium and regales his readers with anecdotes from his life, further giving valuable writing advice in TELLING THE TRUTH, his remarkable keynote address at the Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea. His keynote brims invaluable wisdom particular reflecting on ‘why you should write’.

What catches my attention, though it’s not technically a commencement speech, are a few words of clarity from within this one-hour long session, which has a universal edge, and hence, goes beyond the vocation of writing onto all sorts of things we call work. In inference, his advice on writing manages to bring insight on ‘doing what we love to do’ and ‘how we should perceive and treat our work’. I have hand-picked those particular lines from there that seem to hold an understanding of universal significance:

On writing what you love:

I want your loves to be multiple. I don’t want you to be a snob about anything. Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it. Ignore the authors who say “Oh, my God, what word? Oh, Jesus Christ…”, you know. Now, to hell with that. It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else.

Now, what I’m thinking of is, people always saying “Well, what do we do about a sudden blockage in your writing? What if you have a blockage and you don’t know what to do about it?” Well, it’s obvious you’re doing the wrong thing, don’t you? In the middle of writing something you go blank and your mind says: “No, that’s it.” Ok. You’re being warned, aren’t you? Your subconscious is saying “I don’t like you anymore. You’re writing about things I don’t give a damn for.” You’re being political, or you’re being socially aware. You’re writing things that will benefit the world. To hell with that! I don’t write things to benefit the world. If it happens that they do, swell. I didn’t set out to do that. I set out to have a hell of a lot of fun.

On enjoying one’s work:

I’ve never worked a day in my life. I’ve never worked a day in my life. The joy of writing has propelled me from day to day and year to year. I want you to envy me, my joy. Get out of here tonight and say: “Am I being joyful?” And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.

 

Ray Bradbury’s keynote address at the Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University, 2001.